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Faux Conservatism

Cynical Christian has a post about Huckappeal. But he misses (or at least doesn't elaborate upon) a key point:

What grabbed me were some of Carter's defenses of Mike Huckabee as the real full-spectrum conservative in the race.
A prime example of how "economic conservatives" are out of touch with the Reagan conservatives is the issue of executive compensation for poorly managed companies. On CNBC Governor Mike Huckabee expressed his disgust for corporate boards that award CEOs with $200 million bonuses while the workers are taking 40% pay cuts. As the Governor made clear he didnít think the federal government should take action. His only point was merely that as a conservative he would use the bully pulpit to speak out against such outrageous behavior.

I think that one thing you have to assume about political candidates is that if that say something is disgusting, they're liable to do something about it. If you're not going to judge what a president will do based on what he says, then stop making me listen to those flippin' state of the union addresses every year. And if a politician tries--or threatens--to mess with how people get paid in the private sector, you can no longer call that politician conservative.

While I agree that that is not a conservative position, it's also misleading. There is a slippery implication here that is extremely non-conservative (or libertarian).

If there really were a corporate governance problem that was resulting in CEOs regularly being overpaid for poor performance, then it might in fact be worthwhile to look into it and see if the government was interfering somehow with the market to allow this to happen (that is, after all, the usual reason for apparent "market failures"). But this isn't even obviously a market failure. Note the insidious assumption: to Huckabee (and Carter), the problem is "corporate boards that award CEOs with $200 million bonuses while the workers are taking 40% pay cuts."

The implication here is that if a company is giving workers 40% pay cuts, it is failing at its job. But it could be that the workers had been overpaid for years, and that the only way to make the company successful at its real purpose (returning value to the shareholders), is to reduce their pay. The assumption is that the purpose of a corporation is not to reward its owners (a base foundation of capitalism), but to provide well-paid jobs for employees. Now one can argue (though not convincingly, at least to me) that that should be the purpose of a corporation, but to do so is one of the farthest things from economic conservatism. It's a ludicrous quote to defend the notion that Huckabee is a conservative. That is classical "liberal" (i.e., non-liberal "progressive") dogma. Democrats say those sorts of things, not Republicans trying to pass as conservative.

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 09, 2008 08:17 PM
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